Spotlight on: Rishi Khosla and Joel Perlman, founders of OakNorth

Rishi Khosla and Joel Perlman, founders of OakNorth, talk about their mission to enable millions of SMEs around the world to achieve their growth ambitions by giving them access to affordable loans tailored to their specific business needs and financial profile.

What is the mission of your business and how do you hope it will change the world?

Our mission is to enable millions of SMEs around the world to achieve their growth ambitions by giving them access to affordable loans tailored to their specific business needs and financial profile.

The £800m+ we have lent thus far has already helped with the creation of over 3,000 new homes and 2,000 new jobs in the UK, as well as adding £3.2bn to the economy. Through our ACORN machine platform, we will enable other lenders around the world to lend to SMEs as rigorously, quickly and efficiently as we do. The debt finance they provide will help to create more jobs, build more homes and generate more GDP. This is the impact we will have on the world.

What’s been your biggest challenge in growing your business?

Rishi – Getting individuals and businesses to overcome their inertia and look outside of the big five banks. We have worked extremely hard to build our loan book to where it is today and attract the almost 15,000 deposit customers we have, but the vast majority of individuals and businesses still bank with the big five.

Joel – Maintaining our unique culture. We are growing extremely quickly (over 150 employees, up from 50 this time last year) and our culture is a key part of what has enabled this growth. It has been very challenging finding the right people who share our values and it will continue to be a challenge as we scale.

What advice would you give to your former self when you were starting your business?

Rishi – Focus on building an organisation using the skills, knowledge and expertise I have, rather than trying to do everything myself. It is too much for one person and if you take the time to recruit the right people and build the right team, you will never have to worry about doing everything yourself.

Joel – Be extremely selective about people. Don’t cut corners just to fill a position. As it will come back to bite you.

What part of your job do you most love?

Rishi – Negotiating everything (and I mean everything).

Joel – Leading the development of our culture, ensuring that everyone understands our six values (10X, Momentum, One Team, Challenge and Simplify, Say it how it is, and Right Ambition), and making people feel that they’re in an environment which allows them to experiment and create incredible things.